Government

Some in Walford will leave town to vote

City that straddles county line sends some to Fairfax

Joel Miller (Gazette File Photo)
Joel Miller (Gazette File Photo)

One result of a state law that combines city and school board elections into one event starting with Tuesday’s balloting is that some voters in Walford will have to go out of town to vote for city council and mayoral candidates.

Voters in Walford who live on the Linn County side of the community of about 1,500 people will vote at the Fairfax Public Library, 5 miles up Highway 151 to the northeast.

Meanwhile, Walford residents who live on the Benton County side of town will vote at the Walford Community Center. to the west of the Benton Linn Road. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. statewide.

The change was needed to ensure there is no duplicate voting, Linn County Auditor Joel Miller said.

Both the city of Walford and the College Community School District straddle the Linn-Benton County line. Two candidates are running for mayor and five are running for three seats on the council. Only one race on the school board, for an at-large seat, is competitive.

If both elections were conducted at just one polling place, he said, there would be a risk that any duplicate voting wouldn’t be caught until a postelection audit was conducted. The change will affect about 300 voters, said Miller, who has fielded some complaints.

“We hear that a lot whenever we change polling places,” he said, adding that the Walford and Fairfax are not the only precincts consolidated in this election.

“I understand the arguments, but I don’t think it’ a hardship,” Miller said. Voters had the option of voting by mail if they didn’t want to drive to Fairfax.

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The Iowa Legislature voted in 2017 to combine school and city elections, starting in his election cycle, in an effort to boost voter participation in low-turnout school board elections.

Previously, city elections were held in even-numbered years along with county, state and federal races. School board elections were held in odd-numbered years.

Miller speculated the law might need to be tweaked after this initial experience with combined city-school elections.

“I’m sure there will be some changes made by Legislature after we’ve done it once. Some fine-tuning,” he said. “We’ll get through this one and see what we have to do.”

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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